Like I said last week, Girls excels when it has the courage to pare down the cast and really engage with specific cast members. This week we have even fewer players, including plenty of time with my imaginary boyfriend Andrew Rannells in his role as Elijah. “Bad Friend” uses a mostly split narrative—we are with Hannah, and then we are with Marnie. Yes, we briefly see Jessa and Shosh manning what looks like a killer stoop sale, but that’s all we get from them this week, besides a crack about Tom Petty and Ray’s habit of keeping Shoshanna up at night watching Ally McBeal reruns. But they are tangential to the plot, because we have to follow Hannah’s quest for excitement, courtesy of a strange interview at JazzHate, a web magazine Hannah wants to start writing for. Her editor suggests she leave her comfort zone (using a diagram!) and try cocaine for an exploitative memoir piece. So that’s what Hannah does, even though she confesses she’s never tried the devil’s dandruff before because she has weird nasal passages. Have you ever noticed she’s particularly open to suggestion?
When Jessa doesn’t know where to buy coke, Marnie suggests Laird (comedian Jon Glaser), the addict living in the ground floor of their building. Hannah is frightened of Laird at first, but he seems pretty tame. Laird offers her pomegranate juice and says how much he admires Hannah’s wifi network names (Muffins are tasty and Madame Ovaries) before revealing he knows a little too much about her and Marnie, even their schedules and what magazines they get in the mail. Hannah being Hannah, she mostly ignores the red flags and goes in for the kill instead by smoothly asking if he could score her some coke. Even though he’s clean now, (“I’m sorry, you just didn’t look clean”) Laird agrees to get Hannah the drugs—creepily adding, “I’ve always wanted to do something for you.”
Upstairs, Elijah is schooling Hannah in the art of going out with that gutter glitter. She figures she can just wear her sensible interview outfit, but Elijah knows better, saying “You’ve never done coke before, so let me explain something: this is not going to be a night of driving around in your mom’s Volvo with a bottle of cough syrup and a box full of McNuggets.” He picks out a different outfit (“It’s inspired by a girl I went to middle school with who fucked both her uncle and her step-dad. It’s called power clashing.”) and before we know it, they’re both already tweaking out before even leaving the house. Rannells chews through scenery as fast as he spits out his jokes, proving easily that he’s the season’s MVP and a potential rival for the other actors in the ensemble. Even as Hannah and Elijah are losing their shit at a rave (DJed by beloved New York “brand consultants,” Andrew Andrew) it’s hard not to get caught up in just how funny Rannells is, probably drawing on his chops from his time in The Book of Mormon on Broadway. But then Hannah goes and swaps shirts with a guy in a ponytail and mesh tank after doing more blow, and I remember that maybe we’re just guests in Hannah’s world after all.
Again, one thing Girls knows how to do well is the party scene. Last season we had plenty of great parties, and this rave is no exception. Switching from Hannah and Elijah POV shots to the soundtrack of Icona Pop’s “I Love It” is a fantastic maneuver—we see and hear Hannah’s euphoria, emphasized by the driving beat and dayglo accessories of other party-goers. It’s a pretty great moment, sullied only by Hannah’s subsequent breakdown after Elijah reveals he had sex with Marnie. Hannah is devastated, so she goes where we all go to rally our spirits: the drug store. She kisses Elijah after fighting with him about Marnie and Laird shows up—he’s been following them all along. Definitely in their right minds, the trio decides to catch up with Marnie.
Marnie runs into artist Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) at her new hostess job, where he insults her by saying it’s “fucking depressing” and how much he loves it “when young people are passionate about something and then they give up the second they have to struggle.” Of course, Marnie doesn’t take the insult lying down (yet), and she retorts by calling him a con man that sells derivative art to people who haven’t heard of Damien Hirst, which is a pretty apt description of what we know about the character thus far. He takes her back to his massive apartment and shows her his art (a bloody dollhouse for his next show, Children’s Death Games) and his favorite piece, a media tower that plays Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing” set to scenes of violence and torture. Booth locks her in and leaves to make himself an espresso and surf the web, and Marnie collapses into the fetal position. The whole scene is totally sadistic, and when Booth finally lets Marnie out, I expected her to scream in his face—and she does, except it’s a loud exclamation of “You’re so fucking talented!” So much for romance.
Their sex scene is just as strange—Booth on top of Marnie demanding she describe a creepy doll in the corner (for the record, the doll is sad, not sexy) and making us all uncomfortable. Luckily it isn’t long before the cavalry arrives: Hannah, Elijah and Laird stroll in like they own the place, and Hannah gives Marnie a long lecture about how maybe Hannah’s not the bad guy here, no matter how much Marnie likes to pretend she is. That’s where the name of the episode comes from—Hannah says, “Maybe I’m not the bad friend and maybe you’re not the good friend. I don’t need to play by your rules anymore.” Hannah doesn’t want to drink frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity with Marnie and Marnie’s uncle’s stewardess girlfriend, Elody. Hannah doesn’t want to walk a long way to help Marnie pick up her Cipro. Before the conversation devolves into complete drug-addled melodrama, Hannah gets the following line in, describing her character to a T: “I definitely, definitely don’t care about wearing appropriate pants because one can go through life only wearing shorty shorts and offend almost nobody.” Hannah is sick of Marnie’s self-righteous posturing, and says they can keep being friends as long as Marnie knows she’s the bad one. Then she tells Elijah to move out.
As Hannah slinks home with guardian angel Laird (she pushes him against the wall and makes out with him, which blows his mind), we know that her tail is really between her legs—she can’t feel triumphant knowing she has confronted Marnie about being the bad friend, because Hannah’s the bad friend too—she’s done plenty to hurt Marnie in ways just as awful as Marnie sleeping with Elijah. And that’s one of the great things about Girls: there’s no moral high ground. Back at the club when Hannah screams at Elijah to “Get on my level!”, it’s really unnecessary. Everyone in Hannah’s morally ambiguous world was on her level to begin with.